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A Cooking Challenge

by Meghann on November 3, 2011

Hello from the 2011 Dole Health Summit!

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We are in BEAUTIFUL Westlake Village, California for 48 hours of food, health, and fun. Love it! :)

My adventure to the land of Dole began this afternoon when the beautiful Monica picked me up on her way north.

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Monica is also attending the summit this week and freaking rocks for going a little out of her way to pick me up. It really worked out perfectly since the hour drive north really gave us a chance to play catch up. I’m pretty sure we didn’t stop chatting the entire trip!

Wait. That’s a lie. We took a mini break to try the toffee I picked up from the farmer’s market today as a thank you gift.

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Sweet toffee heaven. The toffee was great straight up, but I bet would be even better mixed in a little ice cream. ;)

We made it to the hotel with just a few minutes to spare before the opening cocktail party began. I sipped on a glass of red wine while nibbling on appetizers and chatting with fellow bloggers and Dole representatives.

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Then the fun began. ;)

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The 9 bloggers were split into three groups of three for an ‘ironchef’ challenge. Each group was provided a basket with two items that had to be incorporated into an assigned meal course.

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We were assigned the dessert portion and were required to incorporate Dole Frozen Berries and lemon in our dish.

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Thus ‘Team Dessert’ was formed!

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My partners in crime: Leah (@BookieBoo), Sandy (@APSandy), and Ben from Dole (taking the photo).   

We had full reign of the kitchen and a plethora of various baking items and fresh vegetables/fruit to incorporate as we saw fit. Sounds like my idea of a party. ;) After a few minutes of brainstorming we knew exactly what we wanted to do – a fruit crisp.

Leah grabbed the oats, brown sugar, flour, and butter and got to work on the topping.

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Our secret ingredient in the topping? Mushroom Powder! It’s flavorless when added to baked goods, but naturally adds a healthy dose of vitamin D to any dish.

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I took over the fruit portion with a base of Dole frozen raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries mixed with some corn starch, lemon juice, and sugar.

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The oat topping was layered on top of the fruit and went in the oven for 20 minutes of crisping.

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While the crisp baked, I got a peek at some of the other creations the other bloggers were coming up with. The kitchen smelled amazing and everything looked delicious. There was lots of sampling of other dishes while everyone finished up.

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Ding! Our crisp was ready!

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We all tried a bite of the crisp fresh out of the oven and gave it two thumbs up. We didn’t have enough time to let it sit and thicken up, but thought the taste would take us through the judging,

We plated a serving for judging and topped it with two scoops of frozen yogurt and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

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The judging part was a lot more fun than what I’ve seen on Ironchef. Each team presented their dish to our team of judges (two chefs and a Dole rep) in a very relaxed fashion, We all listened as the judges made comments expressing their opinions on the flavors and creativity behind each dish.

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The judges were asked to pick a winner between our crisp, a goat cheese and fig salad, and a plate of roasted cauliflower and grilled pineapple with berry sauce.

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After judging was complete and a winner was chosen (three cheers for team side dish!), we sat down to a thick asparagus soup.

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The main meal was a buffet of several fall themed dishes that showcased Dole products. I sort of got lost in the descriptions when she was reviewing them. All I needed to hear was brussels sprouts, fennel salad, figs, and scallops and I knew it would all be good.

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I grabbed a little bit of everything on my plate, but the standout dish was the cheesy cauliflower. I loved that it had a cheesy mac and cheese feel without being overly cheesy or feeling heavy. It was perfect.

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If we weren’t ready to bust out of our pants yet, a dessert place with pumpkin pie cheesecake and autumn fruit crisp was place in front of us.

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I really enjoyed the pumpkin cheesecake with the ginger snap crust. it gave me a little inspiration to try making my own ginger snap crust this coming holiday season. ;)

The whole challenge was a fun ice breaker event that really allowed us to get to know each other. Now that we’re all friends, the real fun begins tomorrow.

Good Night!

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kiran @ KiranTarun.com November 3, 2011 at 2:17 am

I am so distracted by the desserts – especially the pumpkin cheesecake! Holy yum! Have fun tomorrow :)
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2 Hope November 3, 2011 at 7:08 am

That looks like such an awesome experience! :)
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3 Cait @ Beyond Bananas November 3, 2011 at 7:14 am

What an awesome looking experience and challenge! The crisp looks delicious!
Cait @ Beyond Bananas recently posted..Easy Eats

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4 Katie @ Peace Love and Oats November 3, 2011 at 7:23 am

That sounds like fun! Although I would have freaked if I got a challenge like that, haha not experienced enough to be making things uP like that!
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5 Emily November 3, 2011 at 8:03 am

oh your dessert looks AWESOME! Have fun!
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6 Erica @ For the Sake of Cake November 3, 2011 at 8:23 am

Look like a great night with amazing people & amazing food!
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7 Amanda November 3, 2011 at 8:25 am

I love the idea of an Iron Chef type challenge! Definitely a great way to get to know everyone.

I had never heard of mushroom powder before. I’m intrigued!
Amanda recently posted..Moroccan Stew

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8 Gina @ Running to the Kitchen November 3, 2011 at 8:50 am

I think those Iron Chef/Chopped type of challenges sound so fun, as long as you’re in a team. Alone I’d be petrified!
Gina @ Running to the Kitchen recently posted..Cheesy mushroom stuffed peppers

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9 Elizabeth November 3, 2011 at 8:55 am

That sounds like so much fun!! Have a great rest of your trip!

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10 Cait's Plate November 3, 2011 at 9:19 am

Gah! This looks like SO much fun!!
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11 Heather November 3, 2011 at 9:26 am

so fun! your hair looks really pretty by the way.
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12 Leah Segedie November 3, 2011 at 9:51 am

We had a blast. I’m totally digging that mushroom powder! :)
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13 Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife November 3, 2011 at 9:55 am

You look SO pretty Meghann! Looks delicious and fun :)
Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife recently posted..Pumpkin Almond Granola + Thankful Thursday

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14 Cat @Breakfast to Bed November 3, 2011 at 10:02 am

I am SOOOO jelly of all of you out there!
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15 Heather @ Better With Veggies November 3, 2011 at 10:12 am

Sounds like SO much fun – what a great way to kick of the event. Have a great time and keep posting about all the fun activities! :)
Heather @ Better With Veggies recently posted..What I Ate Wednesday is Back!

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16 Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun November 3, 2011 at 10:22 am

These events always look like so much fun. Would love to be there hanging out with you all! At least we get to hang out this weekend. :)
Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun recently posted..Stuffed With Emptiness: Escape With Alcohol…Or Escape Life Altogether

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17 kathleen @ the daily crumb November 3, 2011 at 10:27 am

everything looks delicious!! have fun :)
kathleen @ the daily crumb recently posted..roasted eggplant + chickpea salad

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18 Caitlin November 3, 2011 at 10:52 am

Your hair looks pretty :)
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19 Amy November 3, 2011 at 10:54 am

Ginger snap crust is super easy if you’ve done any kind of cookie-based crust – it’s basically just cookies + butter in the food processor. And I imagine pumpkin cheesecake would be straightforward too! Perfect fall dessert. I think I’ll make one too. :)

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20 Joelle (On A Pink Typewriter) November 3, 2011 at 11:13 am

This looks like so much fun!
Joelle (On A Pink Typewriter) recently posted..Pumpkin french toast

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21 Lynda @ Hit The Road Jane November 3, 2011 at 11:35 am

Yum!! I just read this before lunch and was salivating : ) It’s great to see that bloggers are becoming so influential.
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22 deva @ deva by definition November 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm

That looks like quite the spread of food – and delicious!
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23 Sarah November 3, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Looks like fun!
Normally when I read about what you’re doing you’re completely across the country, but Westlake is approximately 5 minutes from where I’m working right now!

If you need somewhere to eat in the area, I recommend Blue Table (the Agoura location) a local, gourmet deli.
Or the Lazy Dog Cafe in Thousand Oaks :)

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24 Courtney @ The Petite AthlEAT November 3, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Ahhhh! What a blasty!
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25 Brittney November 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I don’t like graham cracker crust on cheesecake that much so I started making a crust out of pecan sandies cookies and it’s delicious! Ginger snaps sound awesome too though!

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26 Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile November 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Sounds like a blast!! Your crisp looks amazing :D

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27 Marlina @ Baker Princess November 3, 2011 at 4:14 pm

How fun !!! Bet it was a blast! I mean, how could Iron Chef cooking, lots of samples, and a buffet be bad? :)
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28 Amy November 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Now that looks like a delicious buffet!
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29 SkinnyRunner November 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm

ive stayed at that 4 seasons once and it was incredible. kinda like your guys meal. beats the airplane nuts and energy bars i just had. tasty.
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30 Sophie November 3, 2011 at 6:29 pm

What a fun day!
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31 Alissa @ Still Unwritten November 3, 2011 at 7:30 pm

I am so glad I found your blog! The conference looks amazing as did all the food! I loved reading your “about” section and the change you went through. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!

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32 Army Amy* November 3, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Fun! This sounds right up your alley the way you’re always whipping up your meals!*
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33 Hilary November 3, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Ok…looks like so much fun! And may I just say – your hair looks totally gorgeous too!
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34 kirsten November 3, 2011 at 9:47 pm

your hair looks really pretty! :)

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